Charlottetown, PE, (Thursday, May 11, 2012) – Throughout May 7-10th, Startup Canada traveled across Prince Edward Island to connect with and bring together the province’s entrepreneurial community. With each meeting and event that was hosted, one message rang loud and clear: PEI’s entrepreneurial spirit is awakening and with the right tools, resources, and mentors in place, it has the potential to thrive.
Startup Canada is a grassroots, entrepreneur-led initiative to support and inspire entrepreneurship across the country. The Startup Canada team is on a six-month tour to celebrate entrepreneurship, identify key challenges facing Canadian startups, and ignite new community-led solutions to those challenges. In PEI, the Tour engaged more than 300 Islanders, and more than 200 entrepreneurs from a variety of sectors, including well-known Island businessmen Ray Murphy, Murphy's Pharmacies, John Rowe, Island Abbey Foods and Timeless Technologies, and Regis Duffy, Founder, Diagnostic Chemicals Ltd.
"This week we met with artisans, farmers, and successful technology, real-estate and manufacturing entrepreneurs who are powering the Island by creating jobs and innovating new products,” said Victoria Lennox, Startup Canada Co-Founder. “The importance of getting entrepreneurship into schools, creating an education track for entrepreneurship, supporting the mentorship of students, and creating a one-stop service shop for entrepreneurs, were some of the salient ideas on how to create a more prosperous and sustainable PEI."
The PEI leg of the Tour began with a Charlottetown Town Hall facilitated by Startup Canada Board Member and Founder of Relish Gourmet Burgers, Rivers Corbett. Together, more than 70 entrepreneurs began building the provincial vision for PEI’s entrepreneur community. Rob Paterson, an entrepreneur who has lived on the Island for more than 17 years, said he has never seen such a mixture of passion, vibrancy and forward thinking in one room.
“I saw a giant awakening where the local community of entrepreneurs and policy-makers can now see themselves as key to our economic future,” said Paterson. “Many entrepreneurs told me that, until now, they had been too busy to see that they were part of a large sector here - a sector that creates most of the real jobs for Islanders and a sector that offers our young people a real future. I think Startup Canada’s visit is an inspiration for the leaders to start working together to help newcomers to the sector and a catalyst for the key policy makers to start seeing entrepreneurship as central in their plans to create a better economy for PEI.”
While discussions were diverse, the events uncovered a number of common threads between participants. Among them was the need for a central business navigator – a one-stop shop for entrepreneur services through an individual local champion, which could be complemented by an online dashboard provided by Startup Canada.
Another action item from this week is to develop a province-wide communications strategy to increase awareness of entrepreneurship as a viable career path. This strategy will include the training, education, and convening of the PEI education sector to equip Islanders with the knowledge, skills and networks required to create entrepreneurial schools, colleges and universities.
Throughout the week, spotlight interviews were conducted with local entrepreneurs including, VITRak Systems Inc., Island Flow, ScreenScape, Prince Edward Distilleries and a number of others.
"I think the Startup Canada PEI Tour was a fantastic success,” said Duncan Shaw, Startup Canada’s PEI Patron and owner of the Summerside Storm. "We saw new energy in experienced entrepreneurs and great excitement in younger people focused on the future. It's great to see so many people dreaming big and focused on making those dreams a reality."
The Prince Edward Island BioAlliance, along with a number of local partners organized and co-hosted the PEI events.
“We’ve been able to celebrate the tremendous spirit of entrepreneurship that lives and breathes in PEI, and we have provided a window for the next generation of entrepreneurs to see what their future might look like in the exciting and rewarding world of running their own businesses,” said Rory Francis, Executive Director of the PEI BioAlliance. "We need to show that business success is something that we really value as a community."
Next week Startup Canada is moving to Ontario to visit Toronto, Waterloo, Windsor and York Region, before heading back to Atlantic Canada to round off the month of May in New Brunswick.
Funding assistance for the PEI Startup Canada tour was provided by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and Innovation PEI. The PEI Startup Canada Committee is made up of the PEI BioAlliance, ACOA, Innovation PEI, The Greater Charlottetown & Area Chamber of Commerce, PEI Newcomers Association, Resources West, ITAP, PEI Business Women’s Association, CDC, Mi'kmaq Confederacy, UPEI, and Junior Achievement.